Donna Maree Hanson - Popular romance fiction: flirting with feminism
popular romance fiction regularly depicts feminist social issues. In this sense, the concept of Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘habitus’ applies — ‘this partly unconscious “taking in” of rules, values and dispositions...’ (Webb, Schirato, & Dahanher, 2002, p. 44). Contemporary popular romance novels are set in the everyday context and as such cannot but help portray the world in which the authors and their characters exist, including social issues present in the mind of the author, whether consciously or unconsciously. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s and since, the woman’s movement has been politically active and concepts of feminism have entered into everyday discourse. [...] research indicates that writers as well as readers of popular romance fiction have no issue reconciling their concept of feminism with writing and reading in the genre.Lucy Sheerman - “Exempt from all affection and from all contempt”: necessary evil and the figure of the Byronic hero in romance novels
Two hundred years since his first appearance in print, the Byronic anti-hero - ‘that man of loneliness and mystery, / Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh’ - is a figure who continues to define representations of the hero in romance novels.Kathrina Haji Mohd Daud - Cross-cultural romance, feminism and femininity in Southeast Asian fiction
The influence of this angry and defiant fallen angel on the writing of the Brontës has been well documented. In my paper I will consider four Governess novels, published by Mills & Boon in 2016 as a homage to Charlotte Brontë’s iconic romance novel Jane Eyre, and the Byronic traces of the heroes who feature in them.
The romance novel’s continued preoccupation with the Byronic anti-hero is central to the genre’s staged encounters with otherness and its exploration of emotional affect. The literary device of the anti-hero shaped the development of romance tropes such as plot, conflict and point of view, and also (as I will argue) gave rise to the Byronic anti-heroine.
In this paper, I explore how the negotiation of cross-cultural romance also elicits a particular Southeast Asian feminism in three texts: Zen Cho’s The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo (2012, Malaysian), Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s Sarong Party Girls (2016, Singaporean) and Ayisha Malik’s Jewel (2017, Bruneian). [...] I argue in this paper that these novels construct a feminist femininity that allows the heroines to remain connected to and sanctioned by their individually patriarchal heritages, while also allowing them to critique and expand existing expectations of feminine identity through the negotiation of cross-cultural relationships.Jodi McAlister's tweeted a thread on Hanson, Sheerman and Daud's papers.
Ellen Carter - What’s in a romance hero/ine’s name? a corpus study of gay and straight romance character names
The first names parents give to their female versus male children have different phonological (sound) characteristics. My work extends this from the real to the fictional world, studying names given by authors to their romance heroes – gay and straight – as well as to straight heroines. My corpus contains 2,536 contemporary romance novels: 1,668 with a male/female pairing and 868 with a male/male couple, resulting in 3,404 heroes (1,668 straight; 1,736 gay) and 1,668 (straight) heroines. My results demonstrate that the phonological characteristics of names given to gay heroes are statistically significantly less masculine/more feminine than the names of straight heroes. Given that gay romance is a fast-growing romance sub-genre predominantly written and read by straight women, I explore possible cultural implications of this finding and how it may feed stereotypes and shape perceptions within (straight and queer) societies.
Carter: striking result - male characters much more likely to have names with /k/ sounds, especially male characters in M/F romance. #popcaanz18— Jodi McAlister (@JodiMcA) 2 July 2018
Eden French - Loving invisible bodies: transgender representation in popular romance
The few novels that do feature trans heroines and heroes — niche even in small LGBTQ presses — are hailed as daring simply for permitting trans protagonists to be plausible subjects of love and desire. [...] romance’s historically heteronormative politics of gender has constrained writers and even scholars from treating transgender themes; mainstream discussion around trans bodies still manifests routinely in fetishistic and dehumanising ways. Moreover questions of embodiment (for example, the politics of gender-affirming surgery) remain contested even in the trans community. Speaking as a scholar and writer, I will discuss existing examples of trans embodiment in romance, and outline possible reconciliations for the challenge of bringing trans love into the mainstream.
French has found disclaimers and disavowals in some of her corpus which make it clear that the assumed readership is entirely cis. #popcaanz18— Jodi McAlister (@JodiMcA) 2 July 2018
Francesca Pierini - “He looks like he’s stepped out of a painting”: The idealization and appropriation of Italian timelessness through the experience of romantic love
Marina Fiorato’s The Glassblower of Murano (2008) tells the story of Eleonora, a young woman who travels to Venice in search of her genealogical past and existential roots. Coming from London, Eleonora incarnates a “modern” outlook on what she assumes to be the timeless life and culture of Venice. At one point in the novel, admiring the old houses on the Canal Grande, Eleonora is “on fire with enthusiasm for this culture where the houses and the people kept their genetic essence so pure for millennia that they look the same now as in the Renaissance” (2008, 15). [...] Within narratives centred on this notion, “falling in love in Italy” occasions the appropriation of a privileged relation with history and the past, often contrasted with the displacement and rootlessness that seem to characterize the modern places, people and lifestyles of England and North America. Through a discussion of two Anglo-American historical popular novels set in Italy, this paper proposes an exploration of the notion of romantic love as a force reconnecting displaced and fragmented souls with a supposedly timeless and unbroken society; a society perceived as holding a privileged relation with ancient traditions and the past.Pierini has a paper freely available online which is quite similar, though lacking the focus on romantic love.
Jodi McAlister's tweeted a thread about Carter, French and Pierini's papers.
Maria Ramos-Garcia - This is not a romance novel but a telenovela”: metafiction and bilingualism in Jane the Virgin
Jane the Virgin, based on a Venezuelan telenovela, is at the same time a parody and an homage to the popular Latin American television genre. Among the many unusual features that contribute to the originality and success of this TV series are an omniscient narrator, a metafictional discourse, a bilingual and bicultural setting and an unapologetic, unabashed, and explicit use and abuse of the conventions of the soap-opera, with a touch of Latin American magical realism. [...] This paper will provide an overview of the series, concentrating both on the Latino socio-cultural aspects that rarely make it into mainstream US television, and on the metafictional discussions of the telenovela and the romance novel — both as genres and as philosophies of love — that permeate the narrative.Angela Hart - Combating the romance genre stigma: reading romance in the digital age
Avid readers of the romance genre can find their voices in the online sphere using social media platforms such as Twitter, utilizing the hashtags #amreadingromance and #romancelandia. Romance readers utilize the technological affordances of the platform to form groups, post about novels, and find relevant information on their specific genre. By using anonymous user login information, unidentifiable profile pictures, and unique hashtags, romance readers are turning to Twitter.Jodi McAlister tweeted a thread about Ramos-Garcia and Hart's papers before stopping so she could present her own.
Jodi McAlister - Not quite YA, not yet adult: the short but complex history of “New Adult” fiction
This paper will trace the history of the new adult genre category, using the notion of the “genre world,” as theorised by Lisa Fletcher, Beth Driscoll, and Kim Wilkins (2018). [...] this paper will explore the generic roots of new adult fiction in young adult fiction, popular romance fiction, and fan fiction, and how these parent genres have given shape to popular forms and structures of the new adult category. It will provide a much-needed scholarly framework for understanding this emergent genre category, its gradual formation, and its complex place at the borders of several different genre worlds.Eric Selinger - Disenchantment and its discontents: Weber, Illouz, and popular romance fiction
Modernity and romantic love make uncomfortable bedfellows. As Max Weber explains, modernity is marked by “disenchantment,” not just of the natural world, but also of the inner life and of interpersonal relations. Building on Weber, Eva Illouz argues that we now live in an “ironic structure of romantic feeling, which marks the move from an ‘enchanted’ to a disenchanted cultural definition of love” (Why Love Hurts). This talk will look at how several contemporary authors negotiate and resist “disenchantment.” Of particular interest will be Ayisha Malik’s Sofia Khan is Not Obliged and The Other Side of Happiness, a pair of “hijabi chick-lit” novels that take both sides in this great debate, Courtney Milan’s Hold Me, which casts a cool, modern eye on romantic love without yielding to the irony that Illouz describes, and/or Alexis Hall’s Glitterland, which deploys religious discourse to redeem both love and popular media culture.Nattie Golubov - The surveillant gaze in FBI romance
This paper is my first effort at thinking through several issues recurrent in the subgenre of the romance police procedural: the configuration of the spaces of home, homeland and nation as domestic territories, besieged not by a foreign but a home grown threat that violates the integrity of the boundaries between private and public, interior and exterior; the role of individual trauma as a mark of the vulnerability of the self and the foundation of an affective investment in the protection of national territory; the "Americanness" of the values and practices that govern social dynamics in the workplace, the self-chosen family and the couple. National character is defined in opposition to the rendering of the criminalised enemy and, together with collective, institutional agency and cooperation, is also the best safeguard against social disorder. Eventually I intend to show that this romance subgenre mediates and manages social fears and anxieties by highlighting the strengths of a systemic framework and ignoring the negative aspects of surveillance: anxiety and fear lie at the heart of romantic relationships and the novels offer a means of managing them with the emotional investment in family and trust in law enforcement.Jodi McAlister's tweeted a thread about Selinger and Golubov's papers.
Kecia Ali - Writing while white: black martyrs as “Magical Negroes” in Nora Roberts’ novels
Roberts’ heroes and heroines are nearly always white; occasional Black characters are typically what Ikard (2017:94) describes as “magical negroes ... whose raison d’être in white redemption narratives is to support/heal/enlighten/inspire the white character(s) in crisis.” This paper explores four Roberts’ novels in which the violent murder of a Black character serves as the catalyst for vital emotional developments between a white couple or among a team of white characters [...] the single-title adventure romance Hot Ice (1987), the category romance Convincing Alex (1994), the stand-alone mystical romance Three Fates (2002), and Morrigan’s Cross (2006), the first installment of a paranormal romance trilogy.